“Nothing Compares” to the Iowa State Fair

IowaStateFair_Header14Interested in learning where your food comes from? Visit the 2014 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines from August 7-17. Nothing else compares!

Started in 1854, the Iowa State Fair hosts about a million visitors a year. It’s the single largest event held in Iowa each year. This event is well worth a google search… I learned things about “America’s classic state fair” that I did not know – and I’ve lived in Iowa for more than 60 years! There are so many things to see and do. If they held the fair every weekend of the year, you couldn’t see it all.

Three movies, a novel plus a Broadway musical have been written about the Iowa State Fair. But the main reason I believe it’s so important to attend is because there are “real” farmers there! You can eat a pork chop on a stick, prepared and cooked by pig farmers, and then talk to them as you stand in line. These Iowa pork producers are willing to take time away from their farms to appear in public and talk with consumers about how they farm. Feel free to ask them how and why they raise livestock the way they do.

What Farmers Grow, Makes Iowa Grow. Walk through the livestock barns and see how our young farmers are taking care of their animals. Stop and ask them questions because this is an opportunity to learn where your food comes from and how it’s raised.

But if you’re looking for a farmer on the fairgrounds, just don’t look for an old man wearing bib overalls and a straw hat. Look for a young lady, who’s feeding her cattle. Walk through the aisles of goats to find out why show numbers are on the rise. Look for a young college student, studying the new machinery and technology on display. These are the people that will most likely be raising the food we will eat.

Take a look at the machinery displays yourself and imagine – or better yet, ask – what these huge machines cost. Find out what these machines are used for and gain a better understanding of the decisions farmers face every day to remain competitive and to stay in business.

IAStateFair3There are many informational displays about farming. Horticulture exhibits are on display inside the John Deere Agriculture Building. (Yes, raising flowers is farming.) Look at the veggies on display. Learn about honey and the bees that make it.

New this year in this building is an interactive display called Farm with Us. Located in the John Deere Agricultural Building, Farm with Us will allow visitors to see growth stages of the plants and experience what a bushel of corn and soybeans looks and feels like.

While browsing through the Agriculture building, be sure to view the butter cow. Each year approximately 600 pounds of pure cream Iowa butter are used to sculpt a life-size butter cow, measuring about 5 ½ tall and 8 feet long. Sculptor Sarah Pratt is also creating a sculpture this year to recognize the 25th anniversary of the Field of Dreams movie.

Kids of all ages will enjoy the sights and sounds of the Iowa State Fair. Feel the squish of grapes between your toes during the Grape Stomp, which is held daily at 11 a.m., plus 2, 3 and 6 p.m. More Grape Getaway Kids’ Activities are held daily at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. in a tent north of Grandfather’s Barn.

In the Paul Knapp Animal Learning Center and Christensen Farms Hall, you can see real animals. Baby animals are born daily. Plus you can watch shows on stage, including my friend Rhonda Ross who performs her “Thank a Farmer” magic show that teaches young folks about farming and ag products. Did you know lipstick is made with by-products of pigs?

You can even find me, working in Farm Bureau Park, if you visit the fair on Tuesday, August 12. I’ll be there all morning, sharing what I have spent my whole life learning and doing… farming! Farm Bureau Park is daily, and each day, different farmers volunteer to talk about their operations. You can learn about many different types of farming, so be sure to ask lots of questions.

Another good place to ask questions about farming is the interactive exhibit hosted by the Iowa Food & Family Project inside the south atrium of the Varied Industries Building. Shannon Latham will be working at that exhibit on Friday, August 8, when the “Iowa Girl Eats” Kristin Porter autographs the popular “Let’s Cook” cookbook. You can meet Kristin this Friday from 1-3 p.m. and on Saturday, Aug. 16, from 10 a.m. to noon.

There is so much to see and do at the Iowa State Fair. I hope to see you there!